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Northeast: Bruins' Bergeron points finger at himself

by James Murphy
Times are not good in Boston.
What once was thought to be a season of promise is spiraling out of control. The Bruins are in the midst of an 0-4-1 streak and are 2-7-1 in their last 10 games. As is always the case when a team freefalls, the coach is called out in the media and trade speculation begins.
While he can't control the rumor mill, forward Patrice Bergeron did his best to dispel any theories that coach Claude Julien's message isn't getting through while making it clear that the players are to blame for the team's struggles.

"It's not his fault," Bergeron said of Julien. "He led us to a playoff spot in his first year when no one else thought we could do it, then last year to first in the Eastern Conference (finals) and it's been awesome since he's been here. So it's not him. We have to pick it up."

Bergeron went on to blame himself and his teammates before issuing a call to action.

"We need to learn from the last game and the weekend and do something about it," Bergeron said after weekend losses to Ottawa and Carolina by a combined score of 7-2. "There's not much more we can say. It's about doing something about it. It's frustrating, but we need to make something out of it and we can't feel sorry for ourselves because no one does in this League. It's about us in (the dressing room) to find a way to get back to what was giving us success."

The Bruins should get a boost with some injured players returning to the ice Friday in Buffalo. Marc Savard is expected back from a partially torn MCL in his right knee, while Byron Bitz and Steve Begin are probable after missing the last four games with undisclosed injuries. Marco Sturm remains out with a leg injury.

Changes for Canadiens -- The Canadiens waived goodbye to Georges Laraque last week as he was deemed ineffective in his role as enforcer.

"I met with Georges Laraque and informed him he would not be continuing as part of our team," GM Bob Gainey said. "We felt our goals were more achievable to continue without him."

Coach Jacques Martin echoed Gainey.

"I don't have anything personal against Georges, and I appreciate what he did for the organization, but we've decided to go in a different direction," Martin said. "It's a hockey decision. We felt that he was not helping our team to win games."

Matt D'Agostini and Max Pacioretty were sent to Hamilton (AHL), while Ben Maxwell was called up. Also, Sergei Kostitsyn came back from an ankle injury Saturday night.

"Matt D'Agostini has not been performing to his ability, so this is an opportunity for him," Martin told the Montreal Gazette. "He had to agree to go down to Hamilton on a conditioning stint, but hopefully that will give four games to try to find his game."

"I think Max is a kid we really like a lot," Martin said of Pacioretty. "We like his speed, we like his shot. He's a kid who's played fairly well, but after 50 games, with 3 goals and 11 assists, we feel he can be a better player by going to Hamilton."

Elliot a star -- Senators goaltender Brian Elliot was named NHL First Star of the Week Monday, after going 4-0-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average and .957 save percentage last week.

"You can't win in this League without goaltending," coach Cory Clouston said. "He's played with a little more confidence, he's getting out to the top of his crease ... just doing what he needs to do. That's the way we expected him to play, for the most part. Obviously he's feeling good about himself. The team is playing well in front of him, and he's having success."

GM Bryan Murray reportedly will be a buyer at the NHL trade deadline March 3. The Ottawa Sun reported that while Murray won't be in on the bidding for Thrashers sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, he could be interested in Hurricanes forward Ray Whitney and Oilers forward Dustin Penner if they become available.

Komisarek on Olympic bubble -- Maple Leafs defenseman Mike Komisarek is doing his best to get back in the Leafs lineup and be ready for the Olympics, but Leafs and Team USA coach Ron Wilson isn't about to let Komisarek rush back from an upper-body injury that may require surgery.

"I talked to him (Monday) and he wants to make sure he's 100 percent ready for the Leafs ... the Olympics are icing on the cake," Wilson said. "If he's ready for Saturday, we'll take the next step. ... (Tuesday) is three weeks away to the first game (for Team USA in Vancouver). So he'll have a week to show he's comfortable or we come to a decision then."

With their playoff chances dwindling, some Leafs players, like goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, are looking at the final two months of the season as a chance to solidify their spots on the team for next season.

"I know it is a big part of the season for me coming up," Gustavsson told the Toronto Sun. "My contract is up after the season and I know I have to play good to show I want to stay here."

Gustavsson was 9-11-8 with a 2.94 GAA and .902 save percentage heading into Tuesday's game with the Kings.

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